This has been an especially memorable Christmas for me, mostly because of my little girl. She is five years old and full of wonder and awe over Santa and the deluge of presents and Christmas cheer he brings. Much of the fatigue and humdrum that I have endured as an adult through recent holiday seasons past is almost nowhere to be found, in the face of Natalie's innocent joy.
I've been hugging her extra tight of late - holding on to my little girl fiercely with a mixture of overwhelming love and of the equally powerful fear of ever losing her.
This is something that every parent endures on a daily basis. The mind races with unspeakable imaginings of what could happen. But at Christmastime, the fearful flights of my imagination seem to occur at an alarming rate.
This year has not been an easy one - I lost an old friend who was a police officer, he died in the line of duty at the hands of a mad man. I lost a dear man who was the spiritual leader of my company and a beacon of light in my life. He left this earth suddenly and without warning.
And on September 30th I lost someone who I had never met, yet her passing has left a hole in my soul. This is by far the most crushing loss I've ever had to bear in my life so far - and yet I know I don't feel 1/1000000th of the agony that her family does.
The best man at my wedding has a four year old niece who is now with the angels. She fell into her family's swimming pool. There was a fence. Yet somehow she got in, and in an instant it was over.
I never met this little girl, nor her father or three brothers. I probably haven't seen her mother in 15 years. But I think of them all every single day.
I tell everyone I know with small children what happened. I know very few details of the event, and I don't really need to. The point of the story isn't to depress people or to make them fearful, but to make them aware that those we love most can disappear suddenly - and we need to cherish them with all of our hearts every single day.
When I look at my little girl sometimes, I'm overwhelmed at the thought of losing her. My mind races and I literally shake in my shoes. My wife and I have cried ourselves to sleep more than once over the thought of what happened on that fateful day.
But then I turn to my faith - my belief that there is a power greater than all of us who has a plan beyond our comprehension, and I am comforted.
This little girl, who was only here for an instant, has already touched so many more lives than her parents will probably ever know. Every single person that I've shared this story with has been affected, deeply. From the owner of my company to random lighting techs and associate producers. The freelance teleprompter guy who has a 3 year old. The producer of the Daytime Emmy's who has a toddler son. All of them nearly moved to tears, quiet and contemplative. I know they will hug their kids extra hard and love them even more than they thought possible.
Margareta was her name. And she was a very real angel, sent here for a very real purpose. She was put on this earth to touch us profoundly and to teach us just how precious life is.
And I have no doubt that there are many other lessons she imparted as well. For me personally, the most powerful gift she has given me is to rejuvenate my relationship with God.
It is through God that I find comfort in the arms of my little one. She's about the same age as Margareta and no doubt just as sweet and precocious. This is probably why this event has been so tough on my wife and I. Every little thought and detail (real and imagined) that enters our heads about what happened, we can imagine it so easily happening to Natalie. I hold her impossibly tight, close my eyes and pray to God that she stays safe and happy. But with the anguish in my heart that Margareta's passing has brought, she has also brought me closer to the big man (or woman) upstairs - and in doing so has helped melt some of the adult hardness around my heart.
I recognize, as with Margareta, that Natalie is here on God's time. As are we all of course - but children, especially little children, are living breathing angels among us. Both Margareta and Natalie make it easier for me to let go of my adult cynicism and to recognize just how small I am in the face of my maker. As I turn the corner in my own mortality and recognize that in all likelihood I have fewer years ahead of me than behind me, I see that really - life is so precious and fleeting that every day is truly a gift.
I hope and pray that Natalie has a long and full life ahead of her, that she will touch people's lives profoundly as a fiesty teenager, a passionate young woman, a mellowed but still joyful middle aged go-getter and as a contented elderly sage of wisdom. But it is not up to her, nor me. She is on a mission, as are we all - to try and be the best we can be, to face every day with love and wonder in our hearts, to let go of fear and jaded disdain, to embrace the unknown and recognize that we have no control over our fate - only control of how much love we bring to bear on those around us.
This is the lesson that Margareta has taught me and I will be forever grateful to her for it.
I am overwhelmed with sadness and love for Margareta's entire family, and for anyone who ever had the gift of meeting her in person. I cannot begin to comprehend the anguish that they feel and that they will never fully recover from.
But I hope they find some small comfort in just how far and wide the love of this little girl has already spread, and will continue to spread, as ever expanding ripples in water - touching the hearts and minds of people who never even met her in a truly beautiful and profound way.
Peace and love to all of you this holiday season, and the very happiest of new years.